National Conference on Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Order, Divergence and Subversion

Department of English organizes National Conference
“Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Order, Divergence and Subversion”
20 September 2019


Click here to view the brochure: National Conference on Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Order, Divergence and Subversion


Myths have fascinated people throughout history. Ancient Myths have survived through time, nurtured mainly by an oral tradition and the explanatory power it gained through its organic links with sacred rituals.From ancient Greece, ancient neareast, South-Central Africa, India and China, to Japan in the Fareast, myths span a considerably large geographical and demographic space. They have always been in circulation throughout history and evoked the interest of anthropologists. Mythic narratives made a significant impact on all religions of the world; however some religions distanced themselves from myths in order to protect the“sacredness” of their own myths. Hence, we have “sacred myths,” often associated with religion, as opposed to the “falsifying myths” of paganism.With their early association with supra – natural elements, myths continued to play a crucial role in defining the cosmogony of religion. There was no distinction made between religion and philosophy till the dawn of enlightenment in Europe. As religion began to distance itself from science in the late 17th and 18th centuries, philosophy took a Kantian turn towards reason. These developments point to an axis of Myth, Religion and Philosophy that forms an interesting discursive space. Hence, the tenuous relationship between myth and modern philosophy could be an important strain to be explored in the proposed conference.

Many disciplines including, history, sociology, cultural anthropology, ethnography and tribal studies have taken great interest in studying myths.The French structural anthropologist Claude LeviStrauss contributed immensely to the linguistic theory of structuralism by suggesting that mythic symbols form a semiotic code similar to that of language. We have moved beyond structuralism to make deconstructive readings of texts. Myths are also seen as ideological and have been interpreted commonly using psychoanalytical approach. Carl Jung, like Freud, believed that myths and dreams were expressions of the collective unconscious. A Jungian analysis of classical myths would claim that gods and goddesses express archetypes that are common to human thinking everywhere in the world. However, unlike many thinkers who suggested that myths help explain the origin of the world, the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur proposed that they help explore the possibility of other worlds.

The use of myths as narrative method could interest young researchers and students of literature familiar with modern and postmodern narratives. The renewed interest in narratives of myth and mythology has its origins in modern British literature of the 20th century. T.S Eliot’s essay Ulysses: Order and Myth(1923), is a starting point that marks this new interest. Eliot praises Joyce’s novel Ulysses as“the most important expression which the present age has found.” He attempts to defend Joyce against the criticism of Aldington who, according to him, wished to paint Joyce as a “prophet of chaos.” Seen in the backdrop of the last of political revolutions in Europe, Eliot was trying to see Joyce’s use of myth as a new narrative method that could liberate art from the clutches of politics of anarchy. Let us not consider Eliot a modernist; he is a self-declared “classicist.” Eliot was only making a disinterested attempt to co-opt Joyce into the British canon.

Nonetheless, we must certainly appreciate the more important point made by Eliot about “Order.” He describes Joyce’s use of myth as a manipulative method to maintain “a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity,” and adds that Joyce’s use of myth is a method of “controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape and significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” However, if we look at the renewed interest in myth as one of the cultural contradictions of modernity, then it can as well be seen as a subtle method of subversion. In the absence of alternatives, myths can serve as an escape from the stifling reality of the “Every day.” The conference hopes to stimulate the intellectual interest of researchers and students of humanities in this emerging area of study.


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